Nationwide expands NASCAR connection with Cup sponsorship for Stenhouse

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Nationwide Insurance has been the main sponsor of NASCAR’s “Triple-A” category, the Nationwide Series, since 2008 and has been involved in the sport for 15 years. But it had never taken the step of actually sponsoring a car in America’s most popular form of racing — until now.

The Columbus, Ohio-based company has inked a two-year agreement with Roush Fenway Racing to be a sponsor for the No. 17 Ford of Sprint Cup rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the 2011 and 2012 NNS champion. Nationwide will be Stenhouse’s primary backer at three Cup races this year (Aug. 24 at Bristol, Sept. 7 at Richmond, and Oct. 20 at Talladega) and four more in 2014, and will also serve as an associate backer for the Mississippi native at all other Cup races.

“We built a solid relationship with Roush Fenway and two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion and Nationwide Insurance member, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and we’re eager to carry that momentum forward and enhance our existing integrated NASCAR marketing platform,” said Nationwide chief marketing officer Matt Jauchius in a statement.

In addition, Nationwide indicated that it’s currently in talks with NASCAR to continue its sponsorship of the NNS. Their current deal runs through the 2014 season.

“We remain fully committed to the NASCAR Nationwide Series, its teams and drivers, our loyal partners and the rabid fans,” Jauchius continued. “Nationwide Insurance continues to have positive conversations with NASCAR regarding the Series entitlement renewal, which began in mid-March and are on-going. It’s a very detailed process and we expect it will take a while, but NASCAR is a great place to be for active sponsors, like us.”

Stenhouse is currently battling for Rookie of the Year honors in Sprint Cup with Stewart-Haas Racing driver and girlfriend Danica Patrick. Going into tonight’s race at Richmond International Raceway, Patrick holds a two-point edge, 86-84, even though Stenhouse is ahead of Patrick by seven places in the overall championship (Stenhouse in 18th, Patrick in 25th).

Hinch boldly “goes” where many drivers have gone before

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One of the most common questions racing drivers face is “What happens if you have to use the bathroom when you’re driving?”

And the most common answer is “You just go.” While admittedly a little disgusting, it is nonetheless a problem that occasionally surfaces, and an innumerable amount of drivers have done so in their careers.

However, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe apparently had never found himself in such a predicament in his career. That is, until Sunday in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

While under the first red flag for rain, Hinchcliffe started to receive “nature’s call.” Unable to get out of the car to use a restroom – drivers had not been permitted to get out of their cars – Hinchcliffe was forced to wait and hold it.

But when the cars briefly took to the track again prior to a second red flag, it became too much to handle, and Hinch was forced to “relieve himself” while circulating under caution.

“I always maintained that I knew at some point in my career it would happen,” he quipped to NBCSN’s Kevin Lee.”

He added, “I was sitting there under that first red (flag), just begging to get three minutes. That’s all you need, (steering wheel off to wheel on). And when we got going again, my legs were shaking, I had to go so bad. I’m like ‘I can’t drive a race car like this.’ So under caution, it took me a full lap, it was one of the least comfortable experiences of my entire life, but I can officially say I’ve joined the likes of Will Power, Dario Franchitti, and other greats that have peed themselves in their suit.”

Social media reaction added to the moment’s hilarity, with SPM and teammate Robert Wickens weighing in.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal also chimed in, coming to Hinchcliffe’s defense.

Hinchcliffe, fully refreshed, will restart the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama in fifth when racing resumes on Monday.

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